28 February 2014

SQTF 79: Writing, Sleep, Productivity, and a Smashing Afternoon

I
We're five days into the 7 posts in 7 days challenge, and while finding time and inspiration has been difficult some days, I've honestly really enjoyed it so far. Writing is how I relax, the activity that lets me unwind; there's always something else to be doing, though, so it tends to feel selfish to intentionally set time aside for my own "fun" writing. By giving me the "excuse" to write every day this week, though, this challenge has shown me how important it is to find that time: I'm better able to respond to the many daily microcalamities of motherhood when I'm taking some time to "reset" every day.

II
Getting up with the sun may have been a virtue in agrarian society, but it is definitely not a virtue in solarly-bipolar Alaska. In the winter you'd be sleeping in until 10am or later, and as it gets into summer, never sleeping at all! If the past couple of mornings are any indication, Little Bear has made a connection between "beginning to be light outside" and "getting up time." Not acceptable, kid; not acceptable. I am so ridiculously tired today! He was begging for his normally-midday nap by 10 this morning, and of course I gave it to him, so... we will hope this doesn't throw off his sleep schedule further.

III
At least he woke me up before I was sent to Mars. People talk about pregnancy dreams being weird; I never noticed a difference, because mine are always weird. Maybe that's part of why I don't sleep well. Last night, for instance, some college friends and I were abducted by the Soviet Martian Colonization Project, put through "extreme harsh climate survival training" which involved a massive rusted-out factory inside a frigid waterfall in the middle of winter, and had been locked up in a secret underground facility to prepare for our one-way trip when I was suddenly woken up by the toddler sitting on my head.

IV
After laughing at the possibility of accomplishing even half my to-do list yesterday, it all actually happened: laundry folded, fridge cleaned, cupboards organized, chicken dealt with. Little Bear was particularly helpful with those last two: He insisted on sitting on the counter next to me while I worked on the chicken, then as soon as my hands were messy, opened the cupboard above his head and proceeded to take out all of the spices, shake each one vigorously, and stack them in towers on the counter. It's hard to believe that, before he was born, my spices were all neatly arranged alphabetically and by jar size! The cupboard will probably never be that orderly again.

V
This weekend, one of my goals is to sit down with cookbooks and old menu plans and suggestions I've received and write up a tentative meal plan for suppers for all of Lent. Of course we can change things as we go, if it's really warm one week and I have three soups written down or something, but it would be one fewer thing to worry about this Lent. Because it's a penitential season, I'm not going to try to make a unique and exciting supper every night... I won't serve lentils every night either, but I'm not terribly opposed to rotating the same 15-20 meals for six weeks.

VI
I really need to stop grumbling; it's unseemly, but even more, God looks out for me before I even think to ask. Today it was Mass. Driving Matt in this morning, I was lamenting the fact that I couldn't make it to Mass today; Little Bear woke up from his early nap in time for me to get us both into nicer clothes and head out the door. The goof pulled his mittens off three times while I was putting my coat and boots on and we got a later start than I wanted, and I grumbled about how we were going to be late; the roads were ice-free, traffic was light, and I hit every single traffic light green. 

VII
Does anyone use "smashing" as an adjective anymore, at least without a cheesy fake British accent? They should. Little Bear and I definitely had a smashing afternoon today; for some reason which now escapes me, after noon Mass I decided that we should just stay in town until Matt got off work. First we went to the library; the particular picture book I was looking for was checked out, but Little Bear had fun watching the fish and turtles and I picked up a few things from the book sale, including the complete Tomie de Paola Mother Goose! We headed to Sam's Club next, but I wound up in a turn-only lane so we took a nice detour through JoAnn Fabrics. Little Bear was so excited about all of the shiny eggs in their Easter decor. After sauntering through Sam's it was 2:45, and I hadn't eaten anything since the bowl of porridge I'd shared with Little Bear for breakfast... I decided that Little Bear was old enough to learn about McDonalds play places. I nibbled a super-healthy lunch of French fries and a Shamrock Shake (the best thing about March, after Matt's birthday) while Little Bear had the time of his life playing on the toddler slide for a full hour. We took a leisurely detour-filled drive to the used bookstore thanks to exceptionally heavy traffic--the first territorial governor's funeral was today--and found some treasures there before heading to campus and running up and down the halls until it was close enough to 5 to head in to Matt's office. So much fun! I'm so glad that Little Bear got that super-early nap, and that he's getting old enough to have fun running around town.

As always, you can find lots more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary! Have a good weekend; if you're in the path of that big winter storm, stay warm!

I’m writing seven posts in seven days this week. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.

27 February 2014

Just a Little Disorganized

Did I really have headaches all the time before I started putting my glasses on every morning? This morning they fogged up when I came in from unloading groceries, so I took them off and forgot about them. An hour and a half later, with the snoring toddler encamped on my lap, I had a pounding headache.

And I've been so tired for so long, I honestly can't remember whether that's normal. It hasn't been the case recently; I feel fairly confident in saying that I've only had a headache one afternoon since I picked up the glasses-wearing, and that was only a day or two in. So I asked my husband.

"I have a headache from not wearing my glasses for just an hour and a half! That means my eyes are getting lazy and using them as a crutch so I should stop wearing them, right? I didn't have headaches all the time before the migraine, did I?"

"Um... Yeah, you kind of did."

"Oh."

Guess what, stupid glasses that fog and get smudged and slide down my nose every ten minutes? Looks like I can't get rid of you that easily.

Yesterday evening, we had a good lesson on homonyms. Since Matt's birthday falls on Ash Wednesday this year, we decided to celebrate a week early, to make sure the sweet stuff was gone before Lent arrives! (I cut up most of the pan of brownies and sent them in to the office with him this morning, but still.) In the first present he opened, he found a shiny silver box with a great big Hershey kiss inside. "A kiss!" he exclaimed.

Little Bear, who was "helping" with the wrapping paper, promptly grabbed the box from his dad and kissed it. He was so proud of himself, and couldn't figure out why we were laughing. I guess that's what I get for teaching him to venerate icons?


Some days, my list of things that "have to happen" is so wildly unrealistic that it's just funny. Here it is, afternoon, kid still napping on me, and I really think that I'm going to find time to clean the fridge and reorganize the kitchen cupboards? As if! Yes, I can see the bottle of olive oil on the counter that somehow got booted out of the cupboard and mysteriously doesn't fit on the shelf anymore... Yes, I know that the chicken I baked on Monday is still waiting to be picked and frozen... Yes, I realize that the tapioca doesn't really belong between the oatmeal and the lentils and I'll never find it there, but that's where it fit! Putting groceries away today was... interesting. Hurried. Haphazard. But at the rate today's been going, I'll be lucky to do anything more than finish the laundry before it's time to leave to pick Matt up from work.

And finally, since I know that sometimes you just need validation that your kid isn't the only weird one...

The surest way to instantly transform Little Bear from an angry, clingy, whiny monster into a bundle of sunshine is to hand him a sweet pickle. "Pickle pickle?" I ask, trying to put away the chair he'd just dragged into the kitchen with one hand and unloading the groceries with the other. "Pickle pickle!" he shouts, smiling and reaching for the jar. This kid.

I’m writing seven posts in seven days this week. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.

26 February 2014

The New Evangelization

Suppose someone asked you to suggest a handful of apps and websites to introduce or reintroduce college kids to the Faith and offer them an awareness of what's going on in the Church. What would you point them toward? 

In other words, I spent all of my blogging time working on a freelance project and then helping come up with an introductory list of such things for someone, and now I'm cheating by sticking it here so I don't fail at the 7 posts in 7 days challenge only three days in. But I definitely do want more suggestions! We're hoping to keep switching out this list regularly.

Apps:

Laudate (iOS/Android, free): Complete Catechism, NAB and Douay-Rhiems Bible, full daily Liturgy of the Hours, daily Mass readings, saint of the day, and many Vatican documents and prayers.

Confession: A Roman Catholic App (iOS/Android, $1.99): A very thorough Confession-preparation aid which walks you through a detailed examination of conscience tailored to your state in life, as well as the sacrament itself. Offers the option of scheduling reminders. Password protected. The first app to receive an imprimatur!

Missio (iOS/Android, free): Daily news and updates from the Vatican and the Pontifical Mission Society; a good way to stay abreast of what's going on in the Church throughout the world.

Lenten Magnificat Companion 2014 (iOS, $0.99): All of the prayers, daily readings, and Lenten meditations you'd find in the paper book, but in a convenient mobile format. Also features essays, poetry, and chants to enrich your Lenten experience.

National Catholic Register (iOS/Android, $0.99): Full access to the award-winning American Catholic newspaper, plus commentary, well-known Catholic bloggers, and access to Register Radio.

Websites:

Catholic Answers (www.catholic.com): A great source of information on any part of Caltholic life and teachings that you have questions about. Also, a searchable archive of their radio program Catholic Answers Live.

Catholic Exchange (www.catholicexchange.com): Daily news articles and columns on a wide range of subjects, along with catechesis, reflections on the daily readings, and much more.

The Patheos Catholic Channel (www.patheos.com/catholic): A diverse collection of some of the best-known names in Catholic blogging, all in one place.

Truth & Charity (www.truthandcharity.com): Commentary on current events and the Catholic life.

EWTN (www.ewtn.com): Catholic news, apologetics, live streaming tv and radio, access to many Church documents, devotionals, readings and more.

So there's my list! There are a lot more I visit or use regularly, but I wanted a pretty diverse sampling for this first iteration. What would you add, omit, or include next time?

I’m writing seven posts in seven days this week. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.

25 February 2014

Call Me a Food Fad Agnostic

There are a lot of different diets and food-philosophies out there, but it seems like the two biggest ones right now are Paleo and Vegan. Maybe Locavore, depending on where you are? That one often ties in with Paleo, though. Or even just the less formal "we only eat organic stuff" people, who are pretty common up here now that I think about it. There are three different aisles in our grocery store with quinoa in them. Three!

So, there are all these philosophies of "the best way to eat." And each of them has a whole lot of science backing up their claims, and a whole lot of people who follow them religiously because don't you know how important it is to eat healthfully? And many of them overlap in one way or another--eating only organics is often a common thread. I suppose all of them eat vegetables of some variety. But they are nevertheless all different: Vegans don't eat anything that comes from animals, but do eat grains. Those who follow the Paleo diet don't eat grains, but do eat meat. Locavores eat any of the above, but only from local farmers. And the less-specific organics-only crowd eats any of the above, local or not, but only from certified organic sources.

And they all claim to be the healthy way to eat; the way our bodies are supposed to eat. The way that's best for us.

They can't all be right! That's basic logic: when you have two or more contradictory statements in front of you, no more than one of them can be correct.

If you've ever looked into any of these diets, or even Googled "eating healthfully," you know how much conflicting nutrition research there is out there. "Everyone should cut out dairy!" "Only lactose-intolerant people should cut out dairy!" "Everyone should go gluten-free!" "If you don't have celiacs, going gluten-free could mess up your body!" "Everyone needs to stop using butter!" "Butter provides the kind of fats your body needs!" It's a little bit ridiculous.

Is there one best way to eat, that will be most nutritionally beneficial to every single person on the planet? Maybe. I doubt it, but maybe. Just because, logically speaking, no more than one of these contradictory food philosophies can actually be the best way to eat, it doesn't follow that any one of them is that best way, or even that one exists. If we've learned anything from the growing body of nutrition knowledge these past few decades, isn't it that different people's bodies work differently? Some people don't process lactose well. Some can't have wheat. Some are deathly allergic to peanuts. Some have different conditions which can be helped by a change in diet, but for whatever reason, other people with the same condition may not see improvement from the same changes.

So I don't see a reason to jump on board with any of the popular food philosophies. None of us have any food allergies or negative reactions to eating certain things, so I'm not going to cut meat out of our diet just because one camp says I should, or stop serving grains just because another thinks they are evil. We can't usually afford organics, so I'll wash the produce well and not worry about it too much. And I have serious doubts that a 100% Locavore diet is even possible in interior Alaska in the winter.

For a long time, "eating right" just meant getting a good balance. Meat, beans, grains, potatoes, fruits, vegetables. Not too much sugar or nutritionally-empty food. That still seems to make sense to me, more so than devoting the years it would take to analyze all of the research behind the different niche diet philosophies. I certainly don't deny that many people have found all of these different diets helpful, even necessary for those with medical conditions! But at this point, because they aren't necessary for us, I think I'll keep cooking the way my great-grandmother did and remain an agnostic on these fad diets.

I’m writing seven posts in seven days this week. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.

24 February 2014

Wait, the Weekend's Over?

It went by so fast, and I don't even think I really accomplished much. But I'm so tired; today was certainly Monday.

Saturday... Is it a bad sign that I don't even remember Saturday, and it's only Monday night? It's probably safe to say that the highlight of my Saturday was Little Bear sleeping six straight hours on Friday night... which ended at 1:45 Saturday morning. This "teaching him to sleep on his own" business can be so terribly unpleasant.

Oh! Saturday was my sister's 13th birthday. Sorry about that... And I suppose that we got some confirmation there that the sleep-all-night training is having some impact: we were still at my parents' house when Little Bear's new normal bedtime rolled around, and he--who a week ago would have been running around playing for another hour yet--wanted nothing more than to snuggle down in my lap and be quiet. When we suggested getting his coat on and going home to bed, he smiled and walked straight to the door, saying "Bye-bye night-night bye-bye!"

Sexagesima yesterday! Only one Sunday left before Lent begins, and this weekend again we had a great preparing-for-Lent theme to our readings: Christ's instruction that we be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, understood through the lens of the mercy and wisdom of God. Unfortunately I missed most of the homily with a squirmy teething kid trying to get away from me to run around in the foyer... I'll have to do some re-reading.

The juxtaposition of the different readings yesterday really struck me, though; the Levitican instruction to "Be holy, for I, The Lord your God, am holy," is pretty clearly what Christ is referring back to at the end of the Gospel. But the "how-to" of that passage from Leviticus, a legal book we often associate with "eye for an eye" justice, is actually strikingly similar to the "how-to" given by Christ in the Gospel passage. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" wasn't something Christ came up with out of nowhere when He told the parable of the Good Samaritan; it is originally from the Old Testament! The first reading and Gospel together sketch out how we are called to live love toward others, a good challenge for the coming season.

We did manage to plan out the week's menu by Sunday afternoon, but somehow that wasn't enough for me to remember to move the moose roast from the freezer to the fridge to start thawing overnight... It went in the slow cooker frozen solid this morning, but turned out fine--which is good to know, because I'm sure it won't be the last time I forget!

Sunday: halibut, spicy baked beans, green beans, whole wheat bread
Monday: moose roast, mixed vegetables, whole wheat bread
Tuesday: sausage and broccoli, pasta with olive oil and Parmesan
Wednesday: chicken Proven├žal, green beans, rice
Thursday: (with my family)
Friday: lemon-garlic tilapia, steamed carrots, apple muffins
Saturday: bourbon chicken, green salad, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, apple muffins


I’m writing seven posts in seven days this week. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.

21 February 2014

SQTF 78: Glasses, Lent, and Toddler Adventures

I
After spending most of Sunday curled up in a dark room with pillows over my head, hiding from light and noise, I've been good and worn my glasses all week. It's so frustrating how they constantly slide down my nose and are always covered with sticky little toddler fingerprints no matter how often I clean them, not to mention how insanely cold it gets having strips of metal on your face at -27 degrees! But I've only had one headache this week, and it was nowhere near the scale of Sunday's migraine, so I guess it balances out.

II
We're going to be late for my meeting today. Little Bear was absolutely sure that he didn't want a nap this morning, despot my hours of effort, so I finally gave up and started getting ready to leave, figuring we could go to Mass, then the meeting, and then I'd just have an exhausted fussy monster when I got home. As I started collecting outdoor gear, Little Bear suddenly decided that it was nap time, right this minute Mama!, and melted down into a puddle of tears on the floor...and promptly fell asleep. This kid.

III

For the "Matt is a great dad" file: the other evening, Matt and Little Bear brought the bucket of duplos out to the living room. Little Bear's only really shown interest in taking apart things that we make up until this point, but he was so excited about this plane that Matt built him: he's spent a good chunk of every day since running around with it and making plane noises. And yesterday I saw him happily building a tower with duplos, so he's finally learned how to stick them together! I foresee many years of stepping on Legos scattered across the floor.

IV
We've finally started making a concerted effort to teach Little Bear to sleep on his own, and so far, it hasn't been too bad. Setting a regular, early bedtime and trying to encourage a nap in the same general part of the day every day has helped him get into a better sleep rhythm: he's been falling asleep for the night in a shorter amount of time, without as much wildness; he hasn't been waking up to nurse as frequently, and sometimes falls back to sleep on his own without nursing; and he has woken himself up consistently every morning this week between 7 and 7:15. He is still in our bed, and will be until he's doing better at falling back asleep without needing to nurse, but it's so nice to see progress.

V
It seems like sometimes kids latch on to the oddest words; for Little Bear, recently, it's been "nun." Every time he hears one of us say "none" or "nun," his head pops up from whatever he's doing, he gets a big grin on his face, and he runs off saying "nun, nun, nun," to find the little singing Benedictine nun figurine I got in college. There are a few friars in the same set, but the only one he wants to play with is the nun...and I keep finding her having adventures all over the place.


VI
Lent is coming, and I'm starting to think about our menu. We still need to sit down and decide just what we are doing in term of food, because while I'd like to do the strict, traditional fast (no meat, no dairy, etc.), Matt doesn't want to add back in all of the starches we cut out... And I am still nursing, so I do have to get enough for that. (And yes, I do know that nursing mothers are exempt from the strict fasting requirements.) We will see what we decide. If anyone has some good meatless, dairy-free, lower-starch meal ideas, though, I'm all ears!

VII
After six months of having his front eight teeth, and getting angry every other week pretending to be teething, Little Bear is finally sporting half a lower molar. As it and its twin have been breaking their way through his gums the past couple of days, we've been wondering where his incisors are... Aren't they supposed to come first? Maybe he's just going to get a whole bunch of teeth all at once? We can feel the other first molars getting ready to come through, and the places where the lower incisors should be have looked puffy for months, but there's been no sign of any incisors actually coming in.

Have a great weekend! Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

18 February 2014

Septuagesima

We're into pre-Lent! I know, that's not really an official liturgical season in the Roman Rite anymore, and if you attended a novus ordo Mass on Sunday the priest wore green and it was ordinary time. In the old calendar, though, this past Sunday is called Septuagesima (70th, a name coming from counting the time before Easter) and signals the beginning of our approach to Lent.

Even with the modern calendar of readings, though, I thought this week definitely encapsulated that spirit of preparation for the penitential season. Sirach wrote of free will, that we have a choice whether or not to follow God, and that those who choose what is right will be saved but "to none does He give license to sin" (Sir 15:20). In Psalm 119, we heard about how those who follow the way of The Lord will be blessed. In 1 Corinthians 2, St Paul talks about the wisdom the world does not grasp, but to which the Spirit opens our hearts, instructing that this wisdom and not the worlds' is what we should value. 

And the Gospel! How much clearer a "start getting ready for Lent" could we get?  "Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 5:17-37) Christ continued on to explain the importance of going beyond the letter of the law and living the spirit: not only 'Thou shalt not kill,' but refrain from cherishing anger against another; not only 'Thou shalt not commit adultery,' but actively avoid indulging in lust. Christ makes it clear that taking a minimalist approach to our examination of conscience ("Haven't killed anyone this week!") won't cut it.

I love the way the Eastern Rites and the Orthodox approach the Sundays before Lent: with Zaccheus Sunday, the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, and Sunday of the Prodigal Son, they begin exploring themes of repentance; on Meatfare and Cheesefare Sundays, they move into the great fast by giving up meat and dairy. Cheesefare, the last Sunday before Lent, is also Forgiveness Sunday: they begin Lent by offering forgiveness to each other, that God might forgive them.

Don't be caught on Ash Wednesday wondering what to do for Lent this year! Take advantage of these last three pre-Lent weeks to plan and prepare for your observance of the Lenten season.

17 February 2014

Bourbon Chicken

Last night we made Bourbon Chicken for supper; this may well be our favorite way to cook chicken. Since getting the recipe from a friend at Christmas, we've made it several times. You can find the original recipe--which is very good!--here, but now that we've made it a few times, we've started experimenting with it to make it even better. Here's the way we made it last night: a little less sweet than the original, but we liked it just as well.

It is originally a recipe for the grill, but this is Alaska... you don't grill here between September and May. We are looking forward to cooking it over the flames this summer, but so far, we've been using the broiler.

First, the marinade:


In a gallon resealable bag, combine:
2 Tablespoons spicy brown mustard
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
3 Tablespoons honey
4 Tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Slice 2 or 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts in half lengthwise. Seal them in the bag with the marinade and let sit in the refrigerator at least two hours, squishing them around every so often to make sure all surfaces are exposed to the marinade.

Heat up your broiler and line a sheet pan with foil. This is VERY important; you do not want to be the one washing dishes if you forget the foil! Broil the chicken on the foil-lined pan 5 minutes on one side, 3 to 5 minutes on the other until it's done.


The sauce and juices running off the chicken will char all over the pan, so keep an eye on your smoke detector if it's too close to the oven when you're checking for doneness.

Enjoy! If you have leftovers, it makes a wonderful addition to a salad with dried fruit and a smoother cheese like Gouda or baby Swiss.

14 February 2014

SQTF 77: February Fever

I
Happy feast of Sts Valentine, Cyril, and Methodius! I know there's this fad among some younger Catholics to stick their noses in the air and correct people who call today the feast of St Valentine, because the current liturgical calendar celebrates Cyril and Methodius instead, but really? February 14 belonged to Valentine for centuries before the Great Calendar Revision of the 1960s, and it doesn't hurt anyone to put a little bit of Catholicism into their celebration of National Hearts and Chocolate Day.

II
We are nevertheless a pair of grinchy Valentines Day-ers over here; Matt worked the early shift today and was out the door before I woke up, and he's supposed to be helping run the Catholic Student Association's screening of Mary of Nazareth tonight, so I will barely see him. I think we are having fish tacos this evening, made with the awful awful lime-crusted tilapia we were foolish enough to buy a couple weeks ago, just to get it out of my freezer, and there won't be any dessert or flowers putting in an appearance: we had our "cheat meal" with ice cream earlier this week, and I've banned cut flowers from the house because the pollen makes Matt and Little Bear both snore. But we are planning a trip to Office Max tomorrow to pick up some red office supplies for each other, if that counts. Not exactly die-hard romantics, are we?

III

If you're in the Fairbanks area and looking for something to do today, with friends or as a date or just to get out of the house, think about going to see Mary of Nazareth! The Catholic Student Association and St Marks are showing the film, which won't be out on DVD until October, at the theater in the Alaska Centenial Center for the Arts at Pioneer Park. Screenings are at 3:00pm and 7:00pm, and there will be refreshments and silent auction items at both showings. Tickets are $10 apiece, and all proceeds go to the CSA's fundraising efforts for World Youth Day in Krakow. I unfortunately can't go, both because of Little Bear and because my vision and big screens just don't mix.

IV
So, February. I thought we had a great system worked out this winter: warm in the rest of the country, cold in Alaska--cold in the rest of the country, warm in Alaska. But now everyone else is having huge winter storms, and it's still below 0 here! What happened, February? Clearly you weren't paying attention at the planning meeting. We are expected to be seeing positive temperatures by tomorrow or Sunday; we'll see what happens. Little Bear and I are starting to go stir-crazy, having been stuck in the house for so long and being unable to play outside for more than five minutes at a time... What I wouldn't give for 10 degrees above 0!

V
Matt's first year working for the university, in the middle of his first full Alaskan winter, his boss related a pretty good rule of thumb: never make important decisions in February. Because February--I can't speak for everywhere, but certainly in Alaska--is awful. The sun is coming back and it looks warm and you want to get outside because you are so sick of the cold and dark you've been dealing with for the past several months, but then you get out the door and it's still frigid. The sun lies, y'all. It gets all bright and shiny, and casts warm-looking pink and orange light everywhere, but it isn't actually at a high enough angle to do any warming... And February likes to suddenly drop the temperature twenty degrees on you and freeze up your engine block; we always get at least one hard freeze, down to -40 or -50, in February. And in the midst of dealing with the cold and the lying not-warm sunshine, somewhere around the middle of the month it'll hit you that we still have at least two more full months of snow. That white stuff that looked so pretty when it fell in October, that you've come to like less and less as time passes, will still be sitting there on your lawn and your roof and your driveway and everywhere until at least the end of April. How can you possibly make sound decisions in the aftermath of such a depressing realization?

VI
Using Seton, Seton Home Study School, affects you for life. This morning I was minding my own business, sitting on the kitchen floor sharing a cup of mulberry yogurt with the toddler, letting my mind wander because it wasn't really time to be awake yet... and discovered myself analyzing themes from a novel I haven't read since high school. For the record, I have no idea what I wrote my theme analysis essay on for The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I'm certain now it should have been the deadly nature of pride.

VII
Complain and ye shall receive? We just got home from Mass, and it is beautiful outside! Bright blue sky, no clouds, blazing sun, and one whole degree above 0. Little Bear was devastated to realize that I was bringing him inside for a nap instead of staying out to play.

Hope your weekend is as lovely! Stop by Conversion Diary for more quick takes.

13 February 2014

Language-Scrambling

I think we are getting close to the fabled point where kids' language takes off: every day, it seems like, Little Bear picks up something new.

Sometimes it's something unfortunate, like his attempts to copy the little rabbit in  The Runaway Bunny who says "Aw, shucks."

Sometimes it's adorable, like how his eyes lit up the other day in Sam's Club when I put a jar of Nutella into the cart: "Tella! Tella!"

And sometimes, it's pretty funny. Like yesterday, as we were getting ready to go meet another mom and her little one at Barnes & Noble. The little girl shares a name with my sister, so to keep from confusing him, I told him that we were going to see a girl. "Can you say 'girl'?" He thought for a moment, wrinkled up his nose at me, and carefully pronounced, "Grrrr-lla." Great. Girls are 'gorillas.' He proceeded to call the sweet little thing "grrrlla" every time he wanted her attention, usually as he was about to take a toy away from her. This kid.

There are still a lot of things he says that make no sense, and I'm sure it'll be that way for a while. There are also the things that he has a word for, and we know what it means, but it doesn't sound anything like the real word and we have no idea how he came up with it. "Nggg" is coat. "Kung" is book of nursery rhymes. "Baaan" is thermometer.

It's encouraging that he is trying so hard to communicate with us, right? I don't remember this language-development stage with my younger siblings; I was away at school when the youngest was learning to talk, and the others were too long ago. Little Bear gets so frustrated when he's trying to tell me something and I can't figure it out, and he doesn't understand "what?" or "say it again" yet. He just looks at me impatiently or walks away. Maybe soon more of his words will make more sense.

10 February 2014

Other People's Yardsticks

Looking at myself, at my day-to-day, it is difficult to not see everything that happens or doesn't happen in terms of black and white, success and failure. There are toys all over the floor: failure. The dishwasher hasn't been unloaded yet: failure. The to-do list is piled high with phone calls to make, emails to send, and I haven't managed to accomplish any of them: failure. Successes don't show up often on this list, and they are always so thoroughly outnumbered by failures; it's hard to keep from reaching the point of crying from frustration, because there's no point to even trying because there will always be more things that go wrong than go right.

Surely staying home all day long, every single day, should give me enough time to have a clean house? Prepare a decent supper each night? Make three whole brief phone calls in the nine and a half hours that my husband is at work? The math just doesn't make sense. I cannot tell you how much I hate the question, "What did you do today?" (or this week, or recently), because... What did I do? Nothing, clearly: there is play food and a solitary snow boot on the living room floor, a stack of books waiting for packing tape first aid on the desk, half-frozen pork chops languishing on the counter, and a screaming toddler clinging to my skirt. I didn't do anything. I can't do anything.

But if I sat around and did nothing all day, why am I worn out by the time Matt gets home from work? Because I didn't do "nothing;" I'm looking at it wrong.

Parenting is hard, no matter how many kids you have, no matter how old they are. But as a young mom with just one very small monster in the house, looking at moms with more kids and more experience, it can be so hard to give myself permission to admit that what I'm doing is difficult. All of these other women have more kids than I do, and their houses are cleaner, and their lives are more orderly, and their husbands are probably happier, and their kids don't hang on them crying for attention while they try to cook supper... And they have so much more to deal with! So I'm clearly just doing a horrible job.

But what if I tried to describe what I do all day without comparing myself negatively to others? I spend my day caring for and playing with and reading to a very small human being who is completely dependent on me: food, warmth, comfort, sleep, entertainment, learning to talk and reason and interact with his environment... He relies on me for all these things, for everything he needs and wants. With no siblings yet, of course I'm the one he looks to all day every day to interact with him. That's what it means to be a mom of one toddler: total, constant attention.

That's my main job, isn't it? If I'm asked what I do, do I say that I'm a mom, or a housekeeper? A mother, or a cook? Cooking and cleaning and taking care of everything else that winds up on my to-do list are important, very important. But they are not more important than being a mom and interacting with my little boy all day. It's not that he won't go play by himself so that I can get things done; he doesn't know how. I need to find ways to involve him in my chores, and help him learn to play with something on his own for five minutes when I really do need him not attached to me so I can make a phone call.

It's so tempting, so easy, to compare ourselves to others, and we just can't. It doesn't matter what my home and life look like compared to my friend's, or my neighbor's, or my mom's. The only thing that comparing my life to someone else's will ever do is distract me from living my life, with the joys and challenges that God has given me in this moment, the way I'm supposed to.

09 February 2014

What I Wore Sunday {39}

I'm so bad about keeping up with these posts. It's been, what, a month again already since my last WIWS? We actually remembered to take a photo after Mass this morning, though, so here you go: What I Wore Sunday at 30 below!


Grey short-sleeved sweater, Merona, thrifted
Coral blazer, Forever 21, thrifted
Black wool skirt, old old old -- thrifted in high school

The goal was "warm but not like a marshmallow"... I guess it worked. That bright coral blazer is so fun to throw on with dark neutral outfits!

It was sure cold this morning! We put Little Bear in his big puffy warm coat, and the nylon outer layer was crinkling and crackling in the cold air just from walking between the door and the car. He complained the whole ride to Mass, because this coat's elastic wrists keep him from pulling off his mittens. Tragic, I know. So he arrived at church with warm hands and a grumpy attitude, which he made sure to share with everyone around us---we spent more of Mass out in the hall than inside.

Maybe his next teeth are finally coming in? As soon as we got home and gave him ibuprofen, he cheered right up. 

Weren't today's readings good, though? Challenging, but such a good reminder of how we are called to live. The reading from Isaiah seems to prefigure the Beatitudes in many ways, and then in the Gospel Christ instructs us to be salt and light... Today the readings just spell it all out: this is what you do, this is how, this is why you do it. In his homily, our priest drew on the example Pope Francis has given us of living as salt and light, particularly his love of poverty and his ability to touch the hearts and minds of so many different people.

07 February 2014

SQTF 76: Nap Time

I
This kid needs something. What? I don't know. A puppy. A Rip van Winkle-style nap. To cut those teeth that he's been working on for six months now already. Something. I know that you're supposed to label any toddler-behavior that you don't like "a phase" and reassure yourself that "he'll grow out of it," but that's just not good enough; Little Bear is a whiny mess, convinced that he needs to be holding my hand or perched on my hip every. single. moment. all. day. long., and spends half the day trying to drag me down the hall to the closet so that I'll vacuum. I don't know why he loves the vacuum so much, but I'm not vacuuming every day, let alone five times a day. 

II
Okay, to be fair, the day is ten thousand times better now that Little Bear fell asleep. Here's hoping for several hours of nap so I can recover a tiny bit of sanity. You know the day isn't going well when I'm seriously considering throwing the diet out the window and asking my husband to pick up pizza and ice cream for supper... hopefully Little Bear and I are both less frustrated after his nap.

III
Who has seen Mary of Nazareth, the new one from Ignatius? The Catholic Student Association on campus is showing it as a fundraiser for the next World Youth Day. They were able to rent a local theater for two showings next Friday, at 3pm and 7pm. Matt is going--he's running the video equipment for them--but I'll be staying home with Little Bear. He certainly wouldn't be still and quiet through a whole movie. I'm glad Matt gets to see it, though; I've heard that it is quite good. Although it is a little bit disappointing that I won't see my husband at all on Valentines Day, since he will be leaving the house before we are awake and getting home after I put Little Bear to bed...

IV
Have you heard yet about Edel, the gathering/conference for moms that is being put together for this coming summer by Jen and Hallie? From their website: 
Edel is an event for mothers who need a break.
It’s a chance to form meaningful connections with like-minded women.
It’s an opportunity to hear inspiring speakers who will encourage you in your vocation. 
It’s a weekend to explore Austin, eat Tex-Mex, and toast new friends.
But most of all, it’s a party. It’s a stress-free, no-obligations event where the only thing that’s asked of you is that you relax and have some fun.
The event is July 25-26 in Austin, Texas, and it sounds like it will be a wonderful time. Obviously I can't go, but for anyone who lives closer, check it out! I'm sure it will be a valuable, refreshing weekend for everyone who can make it.

V
Gosh, I'm being whiny this week, focusing on everything I can't do. I'm sorry! Let me try to come up with something cheerful... um... it's sunny outside? We got several inches of snow dumped on us yesterday morning, all in the span of just a few hours, so it's nice to see that there won't be any more shoveling to do today! I'm glad we got the snow, though: Little Bear and I were walking around campus yesterday while it was coming down, and he was so excited to run around in it and stare at all of the huge snowflakes falling. It was definitely a surprise to walk out of the student center into snow over the tops of Little Bear's boots; we don't usually have that much accumulate so quickly.

VI
Somebody grabbed my phone off the counter the other evening, and had taken a bunch of grainy self-portraits featuring the artistically water-stained ceiling before I could get it back. Why did Apple have to make the camera accessible even when the phone is locked?



I think I have to save at least a couple of them; this one was cute, and I'll need evidence in ten years when he is annoyed with a younger sibling for messing with his stuff and doesn't believe me that he was just as good at getting into things we didn't want him to touch when he was little. 

VII
I know I said this last week, but sunlight is so wonderful. Being able to open all of the curtains and have the apartment get brighter instead of darker is one of the best things about going from January to February. The sun is still halfway above the horizon when Matt gets home from work these days, and soon it will be starting to come up before he leaves in the morning! Sun, and fresh new snow for the sun to sparkle off of, and temperatures in the teens: it is beautiful outside right now. If Little Bear wakes up grumpy again, maybe going outside to play for a while this afternoon will help.

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04 February 2014

Mixed Media Musings

I meant to post Monday, for the extra alliteration, but life happened. Oh well.

First off, have you seen the reading speed test from Staples floating around recently? Matt and my siblings have always teased that I read ridiculously fast, so when Matt saw it on Reddit the other day, well, I had to try it. The result? After retaking the test three times to make sure the results were accurate, we can confidently say that I read an average of 575 words per minute. How quickly do you read? Check out the test here!

While I meant it on Friday when I said that I like watching the Super Bowl for the football itself, as former media students, Matt and I both really enjoy analyzing the commercials to pieces. "See why they used that color there?" "Mmhm, and the downsweeping camera angle gives the viewer the illusion of power..." "Oh, gosh, they messed up choosing him; totally the wrong connotations if people have recently seen that movie," etc. I know, we're weird. But you probably would have figured that out anyway as soon as I told you that my favorite of this year's Super Bowl commercials was... drumroll... T-Mobile's third spot.

Yep, the one with a solid pink background, white text, no video, no voiceover. Just background music from Disney's Robin Hood---a genius selection, by the way. Why? It was pretty near perfect! The ad was daring, completely breaking the mold. It was a calculated risk, but guaranteed to stand out as different: In a venue where everyone tries to out-different each other by going more over-the-top, T-Mobile went with shockingly simple. Action montages can blur together a week or two after the fact, but a whole thirty seconds of that shocking pink screen was unavoidably visually arresting. And it didn't leave viewers wondering who the ad was for, with T-Mobile's signature pink and the shared message with their previous two Tebow commercials (airing it third of the three was very important!). They did a good job with readability: not too much text per screen, a good size, clean edges. And the music...

Gosh, they did so many things by choosing that music. Who is Robin Hood? An outlaw, a renegade, someone who is going his own way instead of following along with the punishing rules of the establishment. A folk hero, one who's out to help the little man. Adventurous. Caring. Plucky. All positive ways for T-Mobile to contrast themselves with other major carriers. For two generations of viewers, the music was calculated to tie T-Mobile's contract buyout program to a fond memory. Did you hear that music and outright think, "T-Mobile is plucky!"? Hopefully not, but did the music stir nostalgia and generally positive feelings, encouraging you to keep listening? Then it worked.

One downside to their unique ad style which Matt pointed out this evening is that it probably won't be shared and rewatched as much online as other ads with big-name actors or exciting visuals or cute little kids and animals. And that's very true, although clearly media/marketing geeks will watch it over and over again. Most people showing friends their favorite Super Bowl commercials aren't going to go back and look this one up. T-Mobile's other two ads, featuring Tim Tebow, probably will get their share of "shares," though, so their buyout campaign will get publicized... and it seems to me that this third commercial was meant more to reinforce the message of the first two than to bear the weight of the marketing campaign on its own.

Enough about that! One more medium and I'll be done for tonight: music. I've been meaning to share Peter Hollens' cover of I See Fire, from The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, for a while now. Hollens does layered a capella recordings of covers and original music, mostly covers recently, and shares them on YouTube as well as selling the individual songs and albums. He has a phenomenal voice, and a true talent for presenting all of the rich layers of even heavily-orchestrated songs without any instrumental backup. I See Fire may be our favorite of the pieces he's released so far--it's played pretty much every day here--but his folk songs, like Shenandoah and Scarborough Fair, are a close second. Check his music out on YouTube!